Darkness is Coming Home
Welcome to Knockout Horror. If you are new here, welcome to the site. We review horror movies, explain horror endings and make lists. Today we are reviewing another Shudder exclusive – From Black. This movie is new to 2023 and has only recently been added to Shudder. Like many Shudder originals. This movie promises a lot and delivers on little. Let’s take a look.
We put out Horror Movie Ending Explained articles fairly frequently. In these articles, we take a look at certain movies and explain the ending. It’s pretty straightforward really. Many of these films may have obvious endings with a few questions left unanswered. Others will be ridiculously confusing. We approach them all the same and try to clear things up.
If you have already watched From Black and need an explanation. Why not check out our From Black Ending Explained article? It’s a big one but we go into detail about most of the plot points. Obviously the article contains spoilers. If you haven’t watched the movie yet, carry on checking out this review. When you have watched the movie, come back and let us help you unravel it.
So a few years back. I watched this cool little British-Irish independent horror called A Dark Song. It is set in my home country of Wales and focuses on a grieving woman. Determined to be able to speak to her deceased child again. She agrees to perform a long, drawn out, ritual with a grumpy occultist dude. The movie is slow burning, subtly creepy and fantastically well made. It really sticks with you when you are done watching it.
Which brings me onto From Black. It seems like I am not the only person that A Dark Song stuck with. It also, clearly, stuck with former cop turned director and writer Thomas Marchese. You see, Thomas Marchese has, basically, taken the entire premise of A Dark Song, and ripped it off.
Sure, he changed a few things here and there. He swapped the glorious vistas of Ireland for Natchez, Mississippi. He swapped the likeable and relatable grieving mother for unlikeable drug addicts. And he also threw in a lame Hellraiser reject demon for good measure. But From Black is basically the same movie.
Well, I say the same movie, but there are a few not so subtle differences. Namely the fact that From Black is a laborious chore of a movie. And A Dark Song is a compelling and innovative indie horror. From Black follows the story of a recovering drug addict. She is found by her cop sister covered in blood on the floor of her house. But what happened? We learn that she is a grieving mother. Her son vanished years ago. In no small part due to her neglect. It eventually becomes clear that the woman was attempting to perform a ritual. All in the hopes of bringing back her deceased son. The only question is, did it work?
Well, I say the only question. There is at least one more that I can think of. Do we care? I certainly didn’t. I was too busy fighting off yawns and a strong desire to fall asleep. From Black is a boring horror movie. It offers nothing unique. It takes things from numerous different horror classics. Throws them all in a pot and hopes something intriguing comes out. From Black has no ideas of its own.
Aside from the plot ripped right from the aforementioned A Dark Song. From Black borrows elements of movies like Hellraiser and Insidious. Clumsily forcing a demonic figure with an equally clumsy voice into the movie. Purely to add a few extra scares that really don’t pay off at all. It all feels very confused and extremely lacking in focus.
We trudge from one boring scene to the next with little reason to care. Characters are unlikeable. Writing is substandard. The backstory is poorly developed and devoid of substance. And the oh so important ritual is dull and lacking in suspense. It’s all incredibly bland and deeply uninteresting. It is one of those movies where you hope and wish for something interesting to happen. Only to leave disappointed. It plods along lazily before fizzling out at the end with no fanfare.
The messy and convoluted timeline doesn’t help. The movie jumps back and forth between the past and the future. Expanding on current events in the story by taking random trips into the past. Offering little to no hint of the jump. Only to bounce back again a few minutes later.
Now, I will admit, I was tired watching this movie. But still, there were a few moments where I found myself legitimately confused. I repeatedly had to ask my fiancée where we were at.. “Is she still on smack here?”. “Who the hell is that guy?”. “Wait, is she sleeping with her own sister?”. And so on and so forth. It feels poorly defined and a little bit messy.
From Black suffers from a cast of bland and unlikeable characters. Headed up by “protagonist” Cora. It is difficult to find a character to root for here. Jennifer Lafleur’s detective Bray offers the most hope. Still, her white meat good cop character feels plastic. Almost like something right out of a police propaganda movie. The less said about Cora the better. A former drug addict and terrible parent. I am not sure whether we are supposed to feel sympathy for her or just really dislike her. She is crass, obnoxious and difficult to care about.
This is made all the worse by the simplistic writing. The character dialogue here is ripped straight from a 15 year old’s “emo phase” diary. Complete with brutal use of metaphors and edgy “you don’t understand me” rhetoric. It’s rather painful stuff and a bit embarrassing in parts.
It’s, obviously, not easy to write grieving characters. But having former drug addicted neglectful people like Cora. Casting scorn at the people around her for giving a shit about how she feels is ridiculous. She should be kissing people’s feet for the sheer fact that they care. Most people would throw her to the curb where she belongs. Attempts to redeem her character and make her seem like a good person are woeful. Leaving you to wonder what happened to the junkie who couldn’t care less about her child.
The “bereaved parent wanting to communicate with their dead child” is a common trope. Movies like Pet Sematary and many others have done this all before. It’s not particularly interesting or unique. The intrigue comes in the ritual itself and what comes after. The monkey’s paw element is always expected. You know the person won’t simply get what they want. There has to be a catch. Something has to go wrong. So the place that horror movies like this can shine is how they approach the middle part.
What happens during the ritual? How many stages are there? How long does it take? Does it require sacrifice? That’s the main area that movies like this can create genuine some serious interest. Unfortunately, From Black simply fails to do this. Whereas A Dark Song’s ritual takes place over a long time. Needing practice and commitment to master. From Black’s is over all too quickly.
There is no sense of sacrifice here. No real deep occultist lore. No interesting manipulation of the person performing the ritual. It’s just bland and ordinary. Salt creating barriers, symbols drawn on the floor in chalk. Noises randomly coming from around the house. It’s all been done before. The things that come as a result of the ritual are all too immediate, as well. There is no waiting around to see whether things have worked. No doubt or hint that the whole thing may be a hoax. Results are instant and all too easy to come by.
Much of this is due to the rituals being something of an afterthought. From Black is far too content to put its weight into its drama element. Whereas A Dark Song devotes the vast majority of its focus to the rituals taking place. From Black is far more content putting much of its attention on Cora’s daily struggles. Be it her job, her issues with her ex partner, her attempts to cope with her grief. It gets lost in the reeds on mundane stuff. Leaving the most intriguing elements feeling poorly fleshed out. The movie would have benefitted greatly from a more focused approach.
From Black is a decent looking movie. It is well filmed and looks great for the most part. It isn’t without its technical issues, though. Whereas the soundtrack is okay. Featuring a visceral scratchiness and almost industrial feel.. The sound mixing is terrible. The music is incredibly loud. Drowning out conversation at times and feeling somewhat jarring. It’s a mess and makes for an uncomfortable watch.
Acting is okay, I suppose. Anna Camp feels out of her depth. Her performance stretches to being loud and pulling occasional angry faces. She rarely puts her body into her performance and her emotion feels forced. Jennifer Lafleur is fine as the classic good cop character. John Ales is a bit mixed as Abel. Having some decent moments but, also, some rather weak ones towards the end. Travis Hammer, as Wyatt, is your token Southern drug addict. Complete with syringe hanging out of his pocket. His character is pointless but he seems to having fun chewing the scenery.
From Black is a disappointing horror movie. Ripping off the much superior A Dark Song. Thomas Marchese offers up a story of drug addition, neglect, grief and regret. Characters are unlikeable, the story is bland and the writing basic. Promising elements of the movie such as the rituals and their outcomes. Never really come together to provide anything legitimately interesting. There are no scares and the ending fizzles out in an unsatisfying manner. This is a movie that you can skip. If you are desperate for something similar to A Dark Song. Maybe give it a go. Otherwise, there really isn’t much to recommend.